Roman Polanski is a French – Polish director, producer and writer. He is considered one of the few “truly international filmakers”. Let’s see some amazing facts and trivia about him!
1.His full name is Rajmund Roman Thierry Polański.
2. He was born on born 18 August 1933.
3. Roman Polanski was born in Paris.
4. His mother had a daughter, Annette, by her previous husband. Annette managed to survive Auschwitz, where her mother died, and left Poland forever for France.
5. Polański’s father was Jewish and originally from Poland; Polański’s mother, born in Russia, had been raised Roman Catholic and was of half-Jewish ancestry.
6. Polański’s parents were both agnostics.
7. RomanPolański, influenced by his education in the People’s Republic of Poland, said “I’m an atheist” in an interview about his film, Rosemary’s Baby.
8. The Polański family moved back to the Polish city of Kraków in 1936, and were living there when World War II began with the invasion of Poland. Kraków was soon occupied by the German forces, and Nazi racial purity laws made the Polańskis targets of persecution, forcing them into the Kraków Ghetto, along with thousands of the city’s Jews.
9. Around the age of five, he attended primary school for only a few weeks, until “all the Jewish children were abruptly expelled,” writes biographer Christopher Sandford.
10. That initiative was soon followed by requiring all Jewish children over the age of twelve to wear white armbands with a blue Star of David imprinted for visual identification.
11. After he was expelled, he would not be allowed to enter another classroom for the next six years.
12. Roman Polanski then witnessed both the ghettoization of Kraków’s Jews into a compact area of the city, and the subsequent deportation of all the ghetto’s Jews to concentration camps, including watching as his father was taken away. He remembers from age six, one of his first experiences of the terrors to follow.
13. His father was transferred, along with thousands of other Jews, to Mauthausen, a group of 49 German concentration camps in Austria. His mother was taken to Auschwitz and was killed soon after arriving.
14. The forced exodus took place immediately after the German liquidation of the Kraków ghetto, a true-life backdrop to Polanski’s film, The Pianist (2002).
15. Roman Polanski, who was then hiding from the Germans, remembered seeing his father being marched off with a long line of people. Polanski tried getting closer to his father to ask him what was happening, and managed to get within a few yards.
16. His father saw him, but afraid his son might be spotted by the German soldiers, whispered (in Polish), “Get lost!”.
17. He escaped the Kraków Ghetto in 1943 and survived by assuming the name Romek Wilk, with the help of some Polish Roman Catholic families including Mrs Sermak who promised his father to shelter him.
18. He attended church, learned to recite Catholic prayers by heart, and behaved outwardly as a Roman Catholic, although he was never baptized.
19. His efforts to blend into a Catholic household failed miserably at least once, when the parish priest visiting the family posed questions to him one-on-one about the catechism: “You aren’t one of us”, he said.The punishment for helping a Jew in Poland was death.
20. According to Sandford, Polanski would use the memory of his mother, her dress and makeup style, as a physical model for Faye Dunaway’s character in his film Chinatown (1974).
21. Polanski attended the National Film School in Łódź, the third-largest city in Poland.
22. In the 1950s, Polanski took up acting, appearing in Andrzej Wajda’s Pokolenie (A Generation, 1954) and in the same year in Silik Sternfeld’s Zaczarowany rower (Enchanted Bicycle or Magical Bicycle). Polanski’s directorial debut was also in 1955 with a short film Rower (Bicycle).
23. Rower is a semi-autobiographical feature film, believed to be lost, which also starred Polanski. It refers to his real-life violent altercation with a notorious Kraków felon, Janusz Dziuba, who arranged to sell Polanski a bicycle, but instead beat him badly and stole his money. In real life, the offender was arrested while fleeing after fracturing Polanski’s skull, and executed for three murders, out of eight prior such assaults which he had committed.
24. Several other short films made during his study at Łódź gained him considerable recognition, particularly Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958) and When Angels Fall (1959). He graduated in 1959.
25. Polanski’s first feature-length film, Knife in the Water, was also one of the first significant Polish films after the Second World War that did not have a war theme. Scripted by Jerzy Skolimowski, Jakub Goldberg, and Polanski Knife in the Water is about a wealthy, unhappily married couple who decide to take a mysterious hitchhiker with them on a weekend boating excursion.
26. A dark and unsettling work, Polanski’s debut feature subtly evinces a profound pessimism about human relationships with regard to the psychological dynamics and moral consequences of status envy and sexual jealousy. Knife in the Water was a major commercial success in the West and gave Polanski an international reputation.
27. The film also earned its director his first Academy Award nomination (Best Foreign Language Film) in 1963. Leon Niemczyk, who played Andrzej, was the only professional actor in the film. Jolanta Umecka, who played Krystyna, was discovered by Polanski at a swimming pool
28. Roman Polanski left then-communist Poland and moved to France, where he had already made two notable short films in 1961: The Fat and the Lean and Mammals. While in France, Polanski contributed one segment (“La rivière de diamants”) to the French-produced omnibus film, Les plus belles escroqueries du monde (English title: The Beautiful Swindlers) in 1964. However, Polanski found that in the early 1960s, the French film industry was xenophobic and generally unwilling to support a rising filmmaker of foreign origin
29. Paramount studio head Robert Evans brought Polanski to America ostensibly to direct the film Downhill Racer, but told Polanski that he really wanted to him to read the horror novel Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin to see if a film could be made out of it.
30. Polanski read it non-stop through the night and the following morning decided he wanted to write as well as direct it. He wrote the 272-page screenplay for the film in slightly longer than three weeks.
31. The film, Rosemary’s Baby (1968), was a box-office success and became his first Hollywood production, thereby establishing his reputation as a major commercial filmmaker.
32. Polanski’s screenplay adaptation earned him a second Academy Award nomination.
33. On 9 August 1969, while Polanski was working in London, his wife, Sharon Tate, and four other people were murdered at the Polanskis’ residence in Los Angeles.
34. In 2001, Polanski filmed The Pianist, an adaptation of the World War II autobiography of the same name by Polish-Jewish musician Władysław Szpilman. Szpilman’s experiences as a persecuted Jew in Poland during World War II were reminiscent of those of Polanski and his family. While Szpilman and Polanski escaped the concentration camps, their families did not, eventually perishing.
35. When Warsaw, Poland, was chosen for the 2002 premiere of The Pianist, “the country exploded with pride.” According to reports, numerous former communists came to the screening and “agreed that it was a fantastic film.”
36. In May 2002, the film won the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) award at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as Césars for Best Film and Best Director, and later the 2002 Academy Award for Directing. Because Polanski would have been arrested in the United States, he did not attend the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood.
37. After the announcement of the Best Director Award, Polanski received a standing ovation from most of those present in the theater.
38. Actor Harrison Ford accepted the award for Polanski, and then presented the Oscar to him at the Deauville Film Festival five months later in a public ceremony.
39. Polanski later received the Crystal Globe award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2004.
40. Roman Polanski met rising actress Sharon Tate while filming The Fearless Vampire Killers, and during the production, the two of them began dating.
41. On 20 January 1968, Polanski married Tate in London.
42. In August 1969, while Polanski was in Europe working on a film, Tate was murdered along with four of their friends at their home in Los Angeles by members of Charles Manson’s “family,” a group of young, gullible, and mostly female followers. Tate was pregnant at the time of her murder.
43. Charles Manson, along with members of his “family”, was arrested in late 1969, and eventually tried and found guilty in 1971 of 27 counts, including first-degree murder, an event now called the Manson murders.
44. Because at the time it was one of the most “horrific crimes in modern history,” the crime and trial of Manson and his followers became a media sensation, leading to movies, documentaries and bestselling books.
46. Roman Polanski has said that his absence on the night of the murders is the greatest regret of his life. In his autobiography, he wrote, “Sharon’s death is the only watershed in my life that really matters”, and commented that her murder changed his personality from a “boundless, untroubled sea of expectations and optimism” to one of “ingrained pessimism … eternal dissatisfaction with life”.
47. In his autobiography, Polanski described his brief time with Tate as the best years of his life.
48. Roman Polanski was also left with a very negative impression of the press, which he felt was interested in sensationalizing the lives of the victims, and indirectly himself, to attract readers. He was shocked by the lack of sympathy expressed in various news stories
49. On 11 March 1977, three years after making Chinatown, Polanski was arrested at Jack Nicholson’s home for the sexual assault of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey, who was modeling for Polanski during a Vogue magazine photo shoot around the pool.
50. Roman Polanski was indicted on six counts of criminal behavior, including rape.
51. At his arraignment, he pleaded not guilty to all charges. Many executives in Hollywood came to his defense.
52. Gailey’s attorney next arranged a plea bargain in which five of the six charges would be dismissed, and Polanski accepted.
53. As a result of the plea bargain, Polanski pleaded guilty to the charge of “Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a minor,” and was ordered to undergo 90 days of psychiatric evaluation at California Institution for Men at Chino.
54. Upon release from prison after 42 days, Polanski agreed to the plea bargain, his penalty to be time served along with probation.
55. However, he learned afterward that the judge, Laurence J. Rittenband, had told some friends that he was going to disregard the plea bargain and sentence Polanski to 50 years in prison:”I’ll see this man never gets out of jail,” he told Polanski’s friend, screenwriter Howard E. Koch.
56. Polanski decided not to appear at his sentencing. He told his friend, director Dino De Laurentis, “I’ve made up my mind. I’m getting out of here.” Polanski caught a flight to London on 1 February 1978, just hours before sentencing.
57. As a French citizen, he has been protected from extradition and has lived mostly in France since then. However, since he fled the United States before final sentencing, the charges are still pending.
58. In 1989, Polanski married French actress Emmanuelle Seigner, 33 years his junior. They have two children, daughter Morgane and son Elvis.
59. Polanski and his children speak Polish at home.
60. In September 2011, the documentary film Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir had its world premiere in Zürich, Switzerland. During an interview in the film, he offers his apology to Geimer: “She is a double victim: My victim, and a victim of the press.” On this occasion, he collected the lifetime achievement award he was to have received at the time of his arrest two years earlier.